Amidst the F-1 weekend in Sochi, Russia, M-1 Global will host the 62nd edition of their Challenge series on Saturday afternoon with an intriguing line-up of local stars and rising prospects. Atop the card is a featherweight title fight between champ Ivan Buchinger and former M-1 lightweight champ Mansour Barnaoui.
The main event is arguably one of the most interesting match-ups between two European fighters in recent memory, as it features two renowned champions, one from Slovakia, and the other from France. Barnaoui is a former BAMMA and M-1 Global lightweight champ. He vacated the M-1 lightweight title shortly after defeating Maxim Divnich in May and has opted to move down a weight class to attempt to claim his second title in as many fights. The Parisian has a 12-2 record and is currently on a four-fight win streak, all of which ended in stoppages. His losses came against current UFC fighters Kevin Lee and Islam Makhachev.
Barnaoui will come up against another fighter with an impressive win streak in Buchinger. The champion has won his last eight consecutive fights, including a win over current UFC fighter Stevie Ray to claim the Cage Warriors lightweight title before moving to M-1 global. He then captured the title in his third fight with the promotion and has since defended it once. The Slovakian has only lost four times in 33 career fights, the last of which came against current UFC interim featherweight champ Conor McGregor.
The main event is a difficult one to confidently predict, as both fighters have displayed dominance over the past couple of years. Barnaoui is a pressure fighter who loves to attack early - a strategy that helped him down Divnich in May. His last three wins were all first round stoppages. On the other hand, Buchinger is a slow starter and usually needs a couple of rounds to find his rhythm. However, he only gets better as the fight goes on, and given that Barnaoui appeared drained on Friday during weigh-ins, that will likely be his strategy this time around as well.
The co-main event in Sochi will feature former M-1 middleweight champion Vyacheslav Vasilevsky in his first fight since losing the title to Ramazan Emeev back in April. It was the first time that the four-time combat sambo world champion was stopped in 29 fights. Originally scheduled to face America's Joe Ray, an injury forced the promotion to call upon Kristijan Perak as a replacement. Prior to his loss in April, ‘Slava' was on a nine-fight win streak Trevor Prangley, Maiquel Falcao, and Emeev. Up against Perak, Vasilevsky will face a Croatian with an 8-1 record and a selection of stoppage wins. While most of his fights took place on the regional scene, he took Valery Myasnikov to a draw back in April.
Top Ingushetian prospect Adam Yandiev is also featured on the main card. Along with his younger brother, Abukar, the two fighters have taken the Russian scene by storm over the past year to become must-watch talents from the North Caucasus. Adam is undefeated with an 8-0 record and is one of the more intimidating fighters that can be placed in front of you, based purely on his physique. All his wins came via stoppage (5 Subs, 3 TKO) and they all took place in varying cities across Russia. While Adam is yet to face significant opposition, his intensity, charisma, and unique entrances make him a fighter to tune in for.
The M-1 Challenge main card will also feature a match-up between Lee Morrison and Kurbanali Abdusalamov. This marks the American's fifth fight for the promotion (2-2). He defeated Russian veteran Mikhail Malyutin in his first fight, lost to standouts Marat Gafurov and Tural Ragimov before rebounding with a susprise upset against touted prospect Pavel Vitruk. His opponent this time around is a crafty Dagestani fighter on a three-fight win streak under the M-1 Global banner.
M-1 Challenge 62 main card:
Ivan Buchinger vs. Mansour Barnaoui
Vyacheslav Vasilevsky vs. Kristijan Perak
Adam Yandiev vs. Dmitry Voitov
Lee Morrison vs. Kurbanali Abdusalamov
M-1 Challenge 62 takes place Saturday, Oct. 10 in Sochi, Russia. The event is available on Russia 2, as well as on the promotion's digital subscription network via m1global.tv.
Full disclosure: I, Karim Zidan, occasionally do commentary work for M-1 Global on the English broadcast. This does not affect my views on this or any other article related to M-1 Global.